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I Imposed a 15-Minute Mirror Rule on Myself for One Week. Here's What I Learned

Trust me, this story is not going where you think it's going
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You know your most extra friend? The one who needs two bags for toiletries and skin-care on vacation, who's never been to the grocery store without wearing concealer, who reserves a hot 45 minutes each morning just for doing makeup and hair?

Well, that's me. You can check out my painstakingly groomed self in the photo at right. It's not unusual for a beauty writer to be so high-maintenance, but that doesn't mean my mom or ex-boyfriends have hated it any less.

Author Zadie Smith recently made waves by announcing that she gives her not-quite-tween daughter a 15-minute time limit on grooming each day. "I saw that she had just started spending a lot of time looking in mirrors," she said."It was infuriating me. I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes, don't do it."

"I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this," she added.

Total Beauty editors were split on this idea. One called the time limit makeup-shaming. Editor-in-chief Jill Provost, who famously gave up showering for a month, saw this restriction as potentially liberating.

Me? I thought the rule was savage and condescending AF, but I was willing to give it a go for science. Here's what I learned after a week of spending no more than 15 minutes getting ready each day.

Images Courtesy Katie McCarthy

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Day 1: Making 15 Minutes Count
To say my usual skin-care regimen is precious is an understatement. On a normal day, I apply six products on my face before I even think about makeup. Then I apply primer, three different concealers (YES, I KNOW), tinted powder, cream blush, highlighter, brow gel, lip balm, lip color, and usually eyeliner or shadow.

With my iPhone timer set to exactly 15 minutes, I turned into a Michael Scott GIF. I limited myself to four skin-care products, because SACRIFICE. Applying toner, serum, oil and sunscreen took about a minute.

My heart literally raced as I rushed to put on Missha Signature Essence Cushion (much faster than three concealers), a product lingering in my archives; a little DiorDiorskin Star Concealer under my eyes (because old habits die hard); Glossier Boy Brow and Cloud Paint; Beauty Pie One Powder Wonder; Hourglass Strobe Lighting Powder highlighter; and Clinique Chubby Stick Baby Tint Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm. Seven minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to have just under seven minutes left, so I half-assed some curling iron waves. With only a few seconds to spare, I smeared on a beige NYX Cosmetics Hot Singles Eye Shadow with my finger and threw the compact on the counter like someone had just told me it was a grenade.

The final product wasn't perfect but I felt pretty certain that no one would know I was cutting corners in the beauty department.

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Day 2: Guess I'm Showering at Night Now
Now, I know there are a few of you reading this and saying, "So what? I get ready in 15 minutes all the time." Well, you're in the minority.

When measuring the amount of time the average woman takes to get ready, the British retailer Marks & Spencer found it ranges from 21 minutes (a typical morning) to 59 minutes (a special night out). The Today Show and AOL conducted a poll a few years ago indicating that women spend 55 minutes a day on their appearance. Whatever the number is, it's way more than 15 minutes.

Today, I discovered that if you want to limit your mirror time to 15 minutes, good luck showering in the morning. After makeup, I blew out my baby-fine bob, but it wasn't fully dry by the time my 15 minutes were up.

I was able to pull off the same makeup look as yesterday, minus eye shadow, plus some sloppy cat-eye liner, which made me pretty impressed with myself. But going to work with wet hair on a cold day sucked hard.

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Day 3: Why Am I Doing All This, Anyway?
Before I started this challenge, my boyfriend was way too excited to get this rolling -- see the iMessage exchange at right. He's actually the most supportive partner I've ever had, and he has spent many mornings patiently entertaining himself on his laptop while I curl my hair or apply eyeliner.

But his reaction told me something important: If I was working overtime to look pretty for the guy, I was kidding myself. If I'm not getting gussied up for my boyfriend, then whom?

It's hard to find the line between what I do for my own gratification and what I do because I think it's expected of me. But expected by whom? Everyone? No one?

Today, I'm working from home. I'm also wearing a shirt that says "My Dog Is My Co-Pilot," which tells you everything you need to know about my plans for the rest of the day. In other words, having 15 minutes to get ready was just fine.

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Day 4: Less Mirror Time Doesn't Make Me Lower-Maintenance
I've realized that 15 minutes is sufficient time to put on a little makeup and do a little something with my hair. Unless I try to do it all while I'm watching "Transparent" -- then, I'm screwed. Check out my oily roots and try not to gag.

Something I also realized is that de-prioritizing beauty isn't just about spending 15 minutes or less in front of the mirror. I'll readily admit that I've put plenty of time and money into my appearance that doesn't get factored into my daily routine.

In the past six months, I've gotten IPL photofacials for the sun damage on my face and driven to Canada twice to get my pale blond brows microbladed. I get balayage highlights about every five or six months, but I'm at the salon for four to five hours every time.

After I snapped this photo, I went to get my eyelash extensions touched up, which takes about an hour every three to four weeks. And don't even get me started on how much time I spend masking every week.

In other words, spending less than 15 minutes at your vanity table every day doesn't exclude you from the High-Maintenance Club.

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